Charities helping refugees
by Jack Taylor
Hamid, Fatima and their daughter were among the first families welcomed by Journey Home Community Association, a group that brings refugees into community through housing, settlement support, and friendship. The young family stepped off a ship in Vancouver harbour as refugees to avoid increasing injustices in their homeland. Through connections they were directed into the welcoming arms of followers of Jesus. Refugees to BC are often looking for peace, security, work, a way to learn English, a place to call home, and a place for their children to go to school. Sometimes in the process, they find a new faith to explore and grow in, such as with Hamid and his family.
Four registered charities have now banded together to meet the rapidly increasing demand of refugee claimants crossing into British Columbia, and assist them on their journey into new community and home. Inasmuch Community Society, Journey Home Community Association, Inland Refugee Society of BC, and Kinbrace Community Society have joined forces to focus on providing transitional or permanent housing, food, clothing, counselling, relationship-building, and access to refugee protection.
As part of this joint initiative, Journey Home (JHCA) has opened up a home in Vancouver to supplement their first two families. Live-in hosts will serve and teach new comers to Canada about life in this country. “Our agencies are attempting to support the influx of asylum seekers as best as we can and we determined that working together to raise awareness, funds and volunteers was the only way to manage the enormous demand,” said JHCA’s Executive Director James Grunau, in a March 28 press release.
Canada’s Inland Refugee Protection program assists more refugees each year than government assisted and private sponsorship programs. “The first weeks and months in Canada are especially stressful and traumatizing for refugee claimants,” says Grunau. Every claimant must face a judge who hears their claim and determines whether they deserve admittance as a permanent resident into Canada. Just over 60 per cent of claimants are welcomed to remain in the country, and the rest are deported.
JHCA President John Dyck reported at the recent AGM: “In light of potentially more than 1,300 claimants arriving in B.C. this year we need to seek ways to significantly increase our capacity to meet the needs of arriving refugees…. We continue to develop church partnerships… and we are starting to see the fruit of this program as several churches have provided exemplary loving care for our families in so many ways.”
A rapid expansion in 2016/17 has been experienced at JHCA. They doubled their staff, broadened their volunteer base, increased formal partnerships and secured United Way funding for their Refugee Claimant Sponsorship Program. They supported 38 new refugee claimants in their Arrivals Program and continued with ongoing assistance for more than 12 families in their Transition Program. Journey Home began with a few volunteers and a low budget in late 2005. Now JHCA lists 18 community organizations and 12 local churches as partners. The Ride for Refuge, which is on September 30th this year, has been one of their best fundraisers.
The Refugee Claimant Sponsorship Program is Journey Home’s answer to the government’s Private Sponsorship Program. Journey Home staff hope to train church and community groups with the skills and knowledge to “do refugee support work, so that more refugees will be served.” By replicating their model with other groups the capacity to help additional families will increase.
For those interested in supporting the work with asylum seekers it is encouraged they pray, stay informed, think and act worldwide, rally with like-minded people, share resources, learn about the sponsorship program in Canada, welcome refugees openly, choose love and not fear, and be an advocate for those in need.
Donations to the Asylum Seeker Community for the support of newly arriving asylum seekers can be made through the Charitable Impact Foundation – go.chimp.net/asc